Teamcheck: Brose Baskets Bamberg

[updated October 7] After losing 1-3 in the 2007/08 play-off quarterfinals against EWE Baskets Oldenburg the era of Dirk Bauermann had come to an end in Brose Baskets BambergBamberg.

Bauermann’s record with Bamberg looked absolutely impressive. He took over a financially almost ruined and in sports terms struggling team and with manager Wolfgang Heyder helped to turn this squad in a commanding force in Germany’s elite division.

In his second year with Bamberg in 2003 he managed to not only reach the post season but also make it to the finals. But Alba Berlin did not show any mercy with Bamberg and finished them off with a 3-0 sweep.

But the core of this team stayed with Bamberg and with guys like Chris Ensminger, Mike Nahar, Uvis Helmanis, Rick Stafford and young Steffen Hamann established a reputation of being something like the Detroit Pistons Bad Boys of the BBL. For sure their style was not the most aesthetic and at times they their style was really rough, but this squad turned out to be very successful under the guidance of Dirk Bauermann. Certainly they lacked talent compared to other top teams, but with heart and fighting spirit these guys personified the typical outsider who does not give up and battles hard for every possession.

During the 2003/04 season Bamberg ended the Alba Berlin’s seven year title reign and eliminated the team from Germany’s capital city in the semi-finals. But again Bamberg finished second as they lost a hard fought five game series against Frankfurt Skyliners.

Finally in 2005 Bauermann’s squad was ready for winning Bamberg’s first ever championship in the club’s history, winning an exciting five game series against Frankfurt.

The following year Aleksander Nadjfeji’s three pointer ended their dreams of a re-peat, but Bamberg made it to the Top16 in their first Euroleague appearance ever.

2006/07 looked like a tough year, but the signing of Casey Jacobsen and the return of Steffen Hamann (who had started the season in Italy with Bologna) turned things around and Bamberg could celebrate a second championship win.

But ever since that second national title Bamberg struggled more and more. In 2008 the team signed with german national players like Ademola Okulaja, Mithat Demirel and Demond Greene but failed to fulfil the high expectations. Bauermann decided that his era with Bamberg had come to an end and with Chris Fleming a familiar face took his place.

The 39-year old Fleming had been a playing and coaching in Quakenbrück since 1994 and made the Artland Dragons from a second division team to vice champion in 2007 and a cup winner in 2008.

With many players leaving Bamberg after the 2007/08 campaign Fleming could start building a roster that fits his philosophy best. Just Pedrag Suput, Robert Garrett, Tim Ohlbrecht and Demond Greene were left from the Bauermann era. The new head coach brought his Artland playmaker John Goldsberry to Bamberg. But even before the season had started the 26-year old playmaker suffered a torn ACL and had to sit out for months. At times Bamberg even stated in press releases that Goldsberry’s season would probably be over.

With Fleming’s quarterback out it could hardly have come worse for the franconians. All season long Bamberg struggled more or less on the 1 spot with former Fleming Point Guards Filiberto Rivera and Michael Hakim Jordan. Bamberg even signed NBA experienced Dan Dickau in January. But the former Gonzaga standout could not help to establish much needed playmaker qualities and was sent home before the end of the season.

It was the return of Goldsberry that changed the whole team. It was easy to see that Goldsberry still was not in his best shape after that tough injury. But with him running the point Bamberg was able to win 9 of the last 12 games and make it to the play-offs.
It was not just bad luck that Bamberg had struggled at the beginning of the season.

Wingman Jared Newson had been a very promising player during his time with Bayer Giants Leverkusen in 2006/07. But after some nice games Fleming decided to limit his minutes and even bench him for many games.

Also picking Alexander Johnson to play Center was not a smart move by Fleming. The 26-year old Johnson lacked experience in Europe and was doing his best to establish the nickname Mr Turnover as he lost 42 times the ball in just 11 games. 3.8 Tos per game made him the number 1 in this category. It also seemed quite doubtful if Johnson is really a player that can play on the 5 spot. The 208cm / 6’10’’ had to go in January and was replaced by American Elton Brown who did a much better job in rebounding.

There were a lot of harsh words about Fleming in several internet forums and there were not few who wanted him to get fired.

But Fleming not only made it to the play-offs despite some questionable decisions combined with bad luck, his team also eliminated Goettingen in the first round. Against Oldenburg the Brose team got sweeped, but one could see during the play-offs that with Goldsberry-Suput-Brown a very nice fundament was found for the upcoming 2009/2010 season.

So it was no wonder that Bamberg decided to stick to this group of players and just do some minor changes.

With Demond Greene and Filiberto Rivera just two guys with major minutes during the post season had to go. Rivera was at times too wild and streaky. On a nice day he could be the go-to-guy, on a bad day he could not even make the wide open shots.

The departure of Greene could hurt the team much more as the german national player not only gives the team identity, but also was very valuable due to his strengths in defense.

As I mentioned above Newson was not the right player for Fleming, so it won’t mean anything that his contract got cancelled.

Tim Ohlbrecht should have had his break-through year with Bamberg last season. The Brose Baskets decided to let veteran Chris Ensminger go to and trust in talented Ohlbrechts. But the 20-year old german national player never made it to major minutes and it is rumoured that Fleming was disappointed with Ohlbrecht’s working ethics. During the play-offs Ohlbrecht was out of the rotation getting just some garbage minutes.

Ademola Okulaja and Dominik Schneider (signed with ProB club Würzburg Baskets) will not be members of the new team as well. Okulaja had missed the whole last season due to cancer and Bamberg decided not to exercise their team option on the german national player. In interviews Okulaja stated that he is ready to return to professional basketball. But it seems like Bamberg was not willing to try their luck with convalescent Okulaja. It will be interesting to see where Adi will end up and if a BBL club will gives him a chance.

During the summer there were rumours about Croatian center Andrija Zizic could sign with the franconians. But after some weeks of speculations Brose re-signed with Elton Brown, who had declined Bamberg’s first offer before.

But the biggest signing for Bamberg this summer was without a doubt the return of the Casey Jacobsen. The 28-year old American has the repuatation of a messiah in catholic Franconia as he was the go-to-guy for Bamberg’s championship in 2007. Jacobsen had been crowned with the BBL finals MVP award and made it to the NBA the following year. But for the Memphis Grizzlies Jacobsen had been a bit of a disappointment and his return to the league lasted only for one season. In 2008 the former Stanford standout returned to Germany, but he did not sign with Bamberg but with archrival Alba Berlin. After a mediocre year with Berlin Jacobsen and Bamberg hope that the maker of the 2007 championship will bring back his a game.

Casey knows about the pressure but does not shy away from it and is happy to be back in Freak City:

“I’m happy to be back in Bamberg. I don’t mind having some pressure on me this season. Every professional player has some pressure on them. I’m not the ‘messiah’… I don’t think people in Bamberg say that. Freak City just wants to win the championship. I’m going to do all I can to help us do that.”

A lot of Bamberg’s struggle throughout the 08/09 campaign was a result of John Goldsberry sitting out. Maybe like no other player in this league the American playmaker changed the way of how his team was playing. With Goldsberry back in action and controlling the game Bamberg looked like a much better organized team. Even though he missed almost the whole preseason and major parts of the regular season the 26-year old showed in his first few games coming back from the injury how important he can be for Fleming’s team.

The 191cm / 6’3’’ player is a pass first point guard who plays the pick and roll very nice and got a knack for making the right decisions. With playing the preseason and having the summer to get a rest for his injured knee one should expect Goldsberry to come back even stronger. Considering just the playmaking ability he is probably the best point guard in this league.

Casey Jacobsen is looking forward to play with Goldsberry:

“He is a good player because he knows exactly how to run a team. John takes care of the ball, plays hard defense, and is a great shooter. What else could you ask a point guard to do?”

Filiberto Rivera was replaced by Brian Roberts, who will play both guard positions. Roberts is a 23-year old, who had a great college career with Dayton. After a pre-draft workout with the Sacramento Kings and playing NBA Summer League with the Los Angeles Lakers Roberts decided to play ball overseas. He had an impressive season in Israel and averaged 15.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game for a team that made it to the semi-finals in Israel. Last season’s backcourt lacked a player who could create his own shot, Roberts sees himself as a player with multible scoring abilities:

“I have been known as a combo guard that is a scorer and shooter so I think that being able to score is the major role for me. Also, I must defend well.”

Now Roberts could exactly be this kind of player and fans even compare him to Demond Mallett, who had been a member of Bamberg’s 2005 championship team. Asked about that comparison Roberts feels honoured:

“I have not heard that comparison yet. But anytime you are compared to a champion, as Demont Mallet was, it is definitely an honor. I just want to help this team and the city of Bamberg get back to that championship circle. “

20-year old prospect Bastian Doreth will be the team’s third option on the playmaker position. Surprisingly to many fans and experts Dirk Bauermann nominated Doreth to the german national team this summer. He was one of the first cuts, but considering a third division player like Doreth for the national team shows how much talent Doreth has.
He spent last season with Franken Hexer in ProB (third division) and averaged numbers that prove his versatility: 11.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. The young talent will also get a licence to play with one of Bamberg’s farm teams so don’t expect him to get more than garbage time.

With Daniel Schmidt and Maurice Stuckey Bamberg has two other Point Guard prospects on their extended roster. But just like Doreth both will not see much time on the court and play with TSV Breitengüssbach next season.

The departure of Demond Greene could hurt Bamberg on the defensive side. Most likely Brian Roberts will be the starter on the 2 spot. Behind Roberts veteran Robert Garrett and youngster Karsten Tadda will see some minutes.

Former german national player Garrett had been a league topscorer some years ago with Würzburg. The 32-year old has a lot of experience and won two national championships in Germany (2004 with Frankfurt and 2007 with Bamberg). Yes, he may have passed his prime, but on a good day Garrett is still able to score 15+ points coming from the bench. Robse can also play some minutes on the 3 spot and could be a nice mentor for a player like Tadda.

Karsten Tadda really has developed into a nice player. Throughout the last season he established himself from a talent with garbage minutes to a real alternative on Fleming’s rotation. Tadda started the season with TSV Breitenguessbach and averaged 19.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists for the third division club. In March Tadda had his first big game for the Bundesliga club as he scored 14 points in just 15 minutes against Düsseldorf. Who would have guessed at the beginning of the season that a young talent with a licence for Breitenguessbach could become a topscorer in the play-offs? Well Tadda did as he scored 13 points and 8 rebounds against MEG Goettingen in the quarterfinals.

What is really remarkable is how easy and calm Tadda is playing. And no matter if his opponent is former Arizona standout Jason Gardner or any ProB player, Tadda plays aggressive and does not bother how he has to deal with.

Brian Roberts is impressed by Tadda’s working ethics and thinks that he will play a big role for Bamberg:

“Karsten works hard and wants to get better. That is what will help him be the best player he can be. He’s a good young player who is going to be key for our success this season.”

With Roberts, Garrett and Tadda being able to play as Shooting Guards Casey Jacobsen will probably play on the 3 spot.

When Jacobsen entered BBL in January 2007 he was perhaps the most exciting and dominating player in Germany’s elite league. His three point shot was deadly, he used screens very well and if he was double teamed, he easily could find the open team mate. Averaging 16.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists Jacobsen was the key player for Bamberg’s second championship ever. His one year NBA stint was not very successful and his last year with Alba Berlin was not a good one as well. No one was expecting Jacobsen to put up numbers like he did in Bamberg’s championship season. During his season with the franconian squad the 28-year old was the number one scoring option. But playing with a team full of offensive options it was no wonder that his numbers dropped. At the end of the season Casey averaged 9.3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.0 assist per game. His three point percentage was remarkable netting 44.6% of his shots (compared to 34.5% he shot in 2007with Bamberg). But at times Jacobsen looked a bit rusty and out of shape. He concentrated mainly on his shooting touch and did not penetrate to the basket as much as he used to during his Bamberg days.

Reviewing his year in Berlin Jacobsen admits honestly:

“I learned last year that the most talented team doesn’t always win. I thought our team in Berlin was clearly the best team on paper, but we didn’t always play together as well as we should have.”

It will be interesting to see if Jacobsen can be a go-to-guy for Bamberg again and just the loaded roster of Alba Berlin did not allow him to shine on offense.

Jacobsen’s backup will be Beckham Wyrick. The 25-year old is a nice team player, who does not care about his stats. His nice shooting touch from outside and his high basketball IQ make him a very valuable player. After some difficulties in the beginning of the season Wyrick did not find his place on the rotation. But later in the season coach Fleming ignored Jared Newson and relied on Wyrick, who had played next to John Goldsberry at college and with Bayer Giants Leverkusen.

It also took some time for Serbian forward Pedrag Suput to find his place and understand coach Fleming’s system and his new role. A player like Suput who is so versatile can be used in different ways. Under the guidance of Bauermann he played on the Small Forward position for most of the time. But Chris Fleming had different plans with the 32-year old and decided to let him play on the 4 spot.

Well, Suput had an outstanding season with Bamberg and showed that he is MVP calibre in this league. With numerous weapons on offense he really became a nightmare for the opponent’s defense. Suput can score from outside and be effective under the baskets. At times he seemed to be his own worst opponent as he had to been in foul trouble sometimes. With Jacobsen on his side he will have to deal with less shot opportunities, but as well some more open space.

Suput’s backup is a player with different abilities and strengths. While the Serbian is a player who can play both forward positions veteran Eric Taylor can play on the 4 and the 5 spot. The 32-year old personifies a style of playing basketball the freak city fans in Bamberg love. It is no coincidence that Taylor became a fan favourite. He must remind many fans of players like Mike Nahar or Uvis Helmanis as he is a player who is always at 100% and does not shy away from any physical contact. This makes him the perfect work horse and team player, who alos benefits from his experience being a pro for 12 years.

Even though Eurobasket.com confirmed the deal Andrija Zizic did not end up in Bamberg. According to manager Wolfgang Heyder the Brose Baskets had been interested in his services and were willing to pay his high salary. But when his former club asked for a buy-out Bamberg was not willing to do so and suddenly lost interest in Zizic.

Elton Brown had refused to sign Bamberg’s first offer, but just a few weeks later after the Zizic episode, the American accepted to re-sign with the Franconians. Brown had started the season with the Chicago Bulls but was cut during training camp. Then he decided to sign with Israel powerhouse Maccabi Tel-Aviv, but after just two games his contract was cancelled.

In February he signed with Bamberg and right from the start he showed that he was the missing piece under the baskets. The 26-year old had been one of the most dominant centers in the 2008/09 season and produced 13.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Brown is hard to stop on BBL level and he also runs the floor pretty well. His only obvious weakness is his bad free throw shooting. But in general Brown is easily one of the top 3 centers in this league.

Goettingen’s Jason Boone had to face Brown in last season’s BBL Play-Offs in four straight games and is impressed by his strength:

“He’s an extremely good player because he has a knack for the ball. He knows when he gets the ball in a position where he can score, he is more than likely going to score, so it’s not that he’s super strong or super skilled or super athletic, but rather a combination of the three and a hard-worker on top of that.”

Of course it would have been interesting to see Goldsberry and Zizic play the pick and roll, but with the re-signing of Brown Bamberg decided to opt for continuousness.

PF/C Eric Taylor will be a backup for Brown, but with Tibor Pleiß and Erik Land Bamberg has signed two of Germany’s finest center talents.

While Pleiß has already played major BBL minutes with Koeln 99ers, Land is still inexperienced on that level. Tibor Pleiß has been a member of Germany’s national team this season and had some minutes in the European Championships. Pleiß signed a 3-year contract with Brose Baskets and was not scared about ending up like other talented big man who signed with Bamberg (Michael Schröder, Dirk Mädrich and Tim Ohlbrecht did not make it in Bamberg). For sure Pleiß could become a decent center but more important than anything else he needs to gain some weight to establish a post game that relies on more than just quickness.

Lineup:

PG Goldsberry / Doreth / Stuckey

SG Roberts / Garrett / Tadda

SF Jacobsen / Wyrick

PF Suput / Taylor

C  Brown / Pleiß / Land

Germans italic

New players bold

Outlook:

To make it short one could simply say that Bamberg simply replaced Greene and Rivera with Jacobsen and Roberts and with Ohlbrecht heading to Bonn they signed Tibor Pleiß.

Continuousness had been the key to Oldenburg’s championship and it would not surprise me if Bamberg could benefit from that as well. With Goldsberry-Suput-Brown Bamberg kept a nice trio as a fundament for the new team. Roberts and Jacobsen should be an upgrade for Greene and Rivera, especially in offense. Role players like Garrett, Tadda, Taylor and Wyrick know Fleming’s system and will contribute as well.
Of course there will be pressure on Jacobsen as he is the face of Bamberg’s last championship, but I expect him to do a good job. Unlike on Bamberg’s 2007 squad Jacobsen will not be the only key player offensively. With Suput on his side and inside presence Brown Jacobsen has two other offensive options next to him. This trio could become a serious thread and a problem for the defense of all other BBL clubs.

Last season Bamberg was kind of lucky to face injury troubled MEG Goettingen in the first play-off round and made it to the semi-finals. This season with a healthy John Goldsberry and more offensive power I see the Brose Baskets as a top 4 team that will be a hard opponent for anyone in this league.

2 comments

  1. Brian Roberts is a great addition to the roster.
    I really like to see him join the german league and expect him to be a nice player there

  2. I think it was not Caseys fault that things did not work out in Berlin.
    Back in Bamberg he should be among the top players in the german league again.
    Goldsberry, Suput, Brown and Casey -> looks like a really hot squad.
    Bamberg could be a contender this year…

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